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How to encourage root growth in phalaenopsis

by Jackson White

The orchid has many genera and thousands of species, but the phalaenopsis orchids are the easiest to grow indoors and for beginners. With the right conditions and careful monitoring, they can produce beautiful flowers that can last for several months. However, you may find after some time your orchid has a diminished root system.

This is something that can happen with orchids that have been in your home for a few months. So, how do you encourage root growth in phalaenopsis? You can mist the area around the roots daily to help provide the roots with higher humidity within the pot. Then flush the pot at least once a week to help keep the moisture levels up, or you can just keep the top inch on the media moist.

How to grow healthy phalaenopsis orchids

These orchids are hardy in zones 10 through 12 and are the most common types of orchids that you can grow indoors and like other orchids, their flower stems grow little shoots or plantlets which are the beginning of new orchids. You can also grow them outdoors in warm, humid, and damp conditions, not soggy in a shady but bright place with no direct sunlight. You can successfully grow orchids as indoor potted plants if you find the right balance between light, humidity, temperature, airflow, and light. They have long-lasting flowers that can last for weeks and one branching flower spike that can produce more than 20 flowers.

Light

Phalaenopsis orchids can flourish indoors under normal lighting conditions with some indirect sunlight, but no direct sunlight because the leaves will burn easily if exposed to too much sun. This plant can tolerate low light so it can thrive on a window with just enough light coming through or under common grow lights about a foot from the plant. A well-grown orchid will have darker green leaves at the top and streaks of burgundy or red on the undersides.

Temperature and humidity

These orchids are warm houseplants and during active growth, they thrive in temp. of between 75-85 degrees F. but can adapt to the normal house temperatures of between 65-70 degrees F. They need higher temps. for humidity. You can place your plant over a tray of water to help increase moisture. Use small stones and pebbles to separate the pot and tray and raise your plant so that it doesn’t sit directly on the water. There should also be a contrast between the day and night temperatures to help your plant bloom well and induce a flower spike.

Water

The phalaenopsis orchid grows from a single stem and doesn’t have large water-storing pseudobulbs although it can store some water in its leaves. This makes it low tolerant of drought. During the growing season, water your orchid weekly or when its exposed roots turn silvery white. You can water them in the morning and keep the potting media moist. When it’s the flowering season, reduce the watering to every other week and don’t allow water to rest on the plant’s stem because the new leaves may rot and your orchid will die. They need ventilation to allow air to move around the roots and if they’re watered properly, the roots will have green, hard, and white colors.

Fertilizer

When your orchid is actively growing, apply a weak orchid fertilizer weekly then reduce to once a month during the flowering and winter season. To provoke a flower spike, apply blooming fertilizer in September or October. Make sure you fertilize properly because it can affect your orchid roots. If you overdose your orchids on fertilizer, it will burn the roots.

Propagation

The process of propagating orchids by seed is time-consuming. Once in a while, the plant will produce baby orchids or Keiki that are identical to the parent and normally appear on a new or old flower spike. After the baby orchid is about a year old, you can cut it from the parent plant and place it in its own pot. The baby orchid is ready once it has about 2-3 leaves and roots that are about 3 inches long.

Promoting orchid root growth

Orchid roots are very sensitive to habitants. When there’s a change in habitat it will replace the old roots with new ones to adapt, especially changes in quality of water will cause the old roots to wither and produce new roots that will adapt to the new conditions. You should check your orchid’s roots regularly so that you can easily know whether you’ve watered and fertilized properly.

In nature, most orchids grow new roots once new leaves start to grow. For orchids that grow from a central stem-like phalaenopsis orchid, their new roots appear with the onset of the warm or rainy season. However, insects and diseases can prevent your orchids from growing new roots so you need a way to stimulate root growth to save your orchid plant.

Phalaenopsis orchids have no critical insect or disease problem, but slugs, snails, mealy bugs, and scale are some of the insects you’ll find on the plant. These insects can suck a lot of liquid from your orchid that had good roots to cause desiccation of leaves. It’s also susceptible to root or stem rot because the growing medium is too soggy. You may need to take out your orchid from the pot to check under the leaves and the living roots for scales. If you find them, use a fine jet of water to remove them from under the leaves, roots, and between leaves. Make sure you’ve removed all the scale insects to prevent regeneration.

If most of the roots are dead it could be because of the decaying media or disease. Wash the entire plant using a fine jet of water and let it dry, if the stem has soft spots apply 2% hydrogen peroxide, after 15 minutes soak the entire plant in the recommended concentration of a hormonal stimulant for 15 minutes then let it dry.

Keep your orchid in a shady place like under a bench. If your orchid has humidity issues, you can remove all the dead tissue and place it in a clear plastic bag under a bench till the new root appear, but make sure water doesn’t accumulate in the bag. Once the roots appear, repot your orchid but keep it under low light until it has enough roots to hold the plant in the pot. Slowly move it into a normal light routine.

Different types of orchids

Type of orchid
Features
Brassavola orchid
Over 200 species and has a pleasant aroma with long reed-like leaves and light green, normally grown as a house plant, grows in bright indoor light or bright outdoor shade, easy to grow and low maintenance
Catasetum orchid
Snowy white with a dark yellow-orange center leaves, grow both male and female flowers, grow in bright diffused indoor light or a partly shaded outdoor
Dendrobium orchid
Over 1000 species, feature lavender, white, and yellow blooms, grows almost anywhere and some keep their leaves all year long
Encyclia orchid
Has no fragrance, bloom for several consecutive months, has dangling petals and sepals, thrives when planted on an orchid mount
Ludisia or jewel orchid
Has velvety dark green leaves, grows in tiny white flowers in the fall and winter, looks good when in and out of bloom

Conclusion

The phalaenopsis orchid is a rewarding plant, it’s not very demanding and in the right conditions, it will display showy blooms for months. They have long-lasting flowers that help on arching branches and open successfully. You can enjoy this flower for weeks.

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